Roma questioned Lega Serie A’s controversial use of monkey artwork as part of a new anti-racism campaign, while the artist said he wanted to create something that “could make people reflect and create debate”.
Serie A received widespread backlash and condemnation following Monday’s launch of an initiative to combat racism in Italian football.
The symbolic heart of the new three-pronged initiative is a trio of paintings from Simone Fugazzotto, an artist renowned for using primates in his work, which will be displayed permanently at Lega Serie A’s headquarters in Milan.
It comes after a number of high-profile racial incidents this season, involving Brescia striker Mario Balotelli and Inter star Romelu Lukaku.
Roma, whose Chris Smalling was also at the centre of controversy when newspaper Corriere dello Sport used the headline ‘Black Friday’ with the England defender and Lukaku on the frontpage to preview last month’s fixture, responded to the campaign on social media.
“AS Roma was very surprised to see what appears to be an anti-racist campaign from Serie A featuring painted monkeys on social media today,” the club tweeted via Twitter.
“We understand the league wants to tackle racism, but we don’t believe this is the right way to do it.”
Fugazzotto was asked about the campaign and his artwork, and he told Football Italia: “The collaboration began in the Spring with my idea of painting this tryptic during the Coppa Italia Final, and in general give a different message that really could be incisive in the fight against racism, and not the usual slogan that, sadly, nobody pays any attention to anymore. Something that really could make people reflect and create debate.”
Asked if he could understand the controversy, Fugazzotto replied: “Everyone is free to think whatever they want. Art has always created discussion and controversy.
“All new ways of communicating cause controversy. Oliviero Toscani did it years ago on the theme of discrimination with his advertising campaign [for Benetton, ndr] and now they are considered masterpieces. Time will tell.”